Complaints of the homeless bathing and littering one of the city’s most popular parks has led to a law enforcement crackdown.
The city’s Code Enforcement Division received several complaints in recent weeks of people setting up camp at Pacheco Park at 903 Pacheco Blvd., according to the Police Department. Grievances reportedly included garbage, old mattresses and miscellaneous debris being strewn in the park. People were also observed with shopping carts and at least one complaint reported individuals using buckets of water to bathe.
Code Enforcement launched a surveillance operation on July 9, according to police. Several individuals were discovered loitering in the park.
Police said two males and a female were seen entering a women’s restroom. Law enforcement responded and found the trio huddled in a bathroom stall allegedly preparing to smoke methamphetamine.
Police arrested Amber Smith of Los Banos on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance. Kyle Hebert, who police allege was holding a methamphetamine smoking pipe, was issued a citation to appear in court. Police said four others were issued administrative citations for public nuisance and other municipal code violations. Police did not reveal the names and ages of the four who were cited.
Los Banos has a homeless population of 88, according to a January Continuum of Care count. On May 19, City Manager Steve Carrigan directed police to break up an encampment of 35 homeless on G Street. Carrigan vowed to not let a large homeless encampment crop up anywhere else in Los Banos.
Since the encampment was broken up, law enforcement has encountered some cooking and warming fires along the Rail Trail and approached the homeless to let them know they must leave the area. A homeless encampment was also discovered – and broken up – behind The Home Depot.
“Breaking up the encampment at G Street definitely caused small camps to spring up,” Carrigan said in an email response on the issue. “The city gave the 35 homeless people that were living at the G Street encampment the opportunity to go to housing and get the services they need to get better. Those services include job training, alcohol and drug abuse assistance, Social Security benefits, among others. Unfortunately, most of the homeless rejected services and now they are popping up around town.”
Cmdr. Jason Hedden said police have not been inundated with homeless encampments.
“There’s been a few complaints, Pacheco being one, but I wouldn’t say an overwhelming amount,” Hedden said.
Police Chief Gary Brizzee credited a realignment of city staff for the action on Pacheco Park.
“Having all of the city’s enforcement entities under one roof is proving to be very effective. Code Enforcement is using creative methods to solve public nuisance issues in Los Banos, ” Brizzee said.